A Mississippi company, making preparations all morning and most of the afternoon, has started moving the rundown Casey Barge out of downtown Chattanooga and toward Mobile Bay.
Onlookers stopped by much of the day hoping to catch a glimpse of a towboat pulling the barge from its longtime berth across from Ross's Landing.
"There's a missed opportunity for a gold mine right there," said Mike McSpadden, who came in from Rhea County, Tenn., with hopes of seeing the barge sent on its way out of the Scenic City.
Casey had hoped to make the barge a floating restaurant when he brought it to the city in 2009.
Workmen spent the last couple of days making final repairs and tests on the derelict barge, which became known as the "eyesore on the North Shore."
Casey, who developed the Chattanooga Choo Choo more than three decades ago, and one of his companies filed for bankruptcy after he was slated to go to trial in a lawsuit brought by a group of former investors in the barge.
Casey also had proposed a hotel and condominiums on about 10 acres of vacant land to which the barge was moored. About six acres of the site were earlier put on the market for $11.2 million.
Under a U.S. Bankruptcy Court plan, Gulfstream Enterprises of Biloxi was to be given ownership of the barge and to be paid $195,000 to remove it. The company was given a May 15 deadline to do so.
Gulfstream plans to take the barge down the Tennessee River to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and then to Mobile Bay. Ultimately, the barge is expected to wind up at a small shipyard belonging to Gulfstream in Biloxi where it may be scrapped.
The Casey barge is actually two-and-a-half such vessels which were put together to make up an entertainment site in Pittsburgh, from where it was towed to Chattanooga in 2009.
See more in Friday's Times Free Press.